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So Where Do I Fit In?

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  • So Where Do I Fit In?

    I have a great new horse, he's in training nearby, and enjoying it... But I am a 45 year old re-rider with two young kids, and my skills have gone to pot.

    I'm not a good enough rider to get the new guy along (why he's in training), but I love horses... I hope to hunt him this year. He'll do well, he's a good boy. But at what point do I realize that I like horses as company vs. performance companions, and should I?

    It hit me tonight, as I was walking to the barn to feed my three retirees/rescues, that I really enjoy the smell of the barn and the company of my horses even though I don't ride most of them. They're all good horses. They all ground tie for the farrier/blanketing/anything -2 OTTB's and a 2000lb, slaughter-saved, abused Belgian - not out of training, but because they're happy.

    But I get nervous every time I go to ride, even though my beautiful new boy is so good...(I got nervous with my now retired mare, too, but she was wicked hot). I'm not afraid of falling off, I don't know what it is that I'm so afraid of. I start tacking up, and I'm shaking. I still ride...but should I?

    Has anyone else experienced or gotten through this? What do you do to remember the fearlessness you had, when you rode as a kid? This isn't a horse problem, it's a me problem. I grew up riding OTTB's (mostly bareback), and had great fun. This started just after I had my daughter - is this a "I have kids now" thing? Any input would be great.

  • #2
    I have absolutely no perspective on this, but: do you want to ride and want to overcome these new feelings? Or would you be happy to change your level of riding/competitive involvement?

    Neither is a "right" answer - just what's right for you.

    If you want to get back to your "old self," maybe you should consider investing in a session or two with a sports psychologist. (disclaimer: I am taking from your above post that you aren't actually scared of your current horse, and that he is a trustworthy sort.)

    You never know what kind of obsessive compulsive crazy person you are until another person imitates your behaviour at a three-day. --Gry2Yng


    • #3
      Originally posted by Tommy's Girl View Post
      This started just after I had my daughter - is this a "I have kids now" thing?
      I don't think it is, because many people our age with kids do ride and not go through what you describe.

      As to what it is, I can't tell you because I have not experienced it.

      ETA: I am referring to what seems a rather large reaction to your fears, not the fear itself. We all go through some level of nervousness at middle age when we ride. Yesterday was my first day jumping after nearly a month and a half and I did have a few moments when my heart got going a little quicker. But being afraid before every ride or shaking while you tack is something you should talk to a pro about.
      Last edited by caballero; Jan. 21, 2013, 09:20 AM.


      • #4
        Do you have someone that you ride with? I think they only way through this is in the saddle. Often it takes someone on the ground to make you feel safe and remind you of the skills you have that need to be refreshed.


        • #5
          I think that it has to do do with having kids and realizing that your children rely on you, and that when you ride, you can get hurt. For me, regular riding was never a problem, but I was nervous when the jumps started to get over 3 feet or at competitions, when the XC was out of my comfort zone. I would say that you might want to find a horse that you really trust, and just have fun. If it is trail riding then so be it. I know that when I felt pressured to jump higher or compete, it just made the fear worse. Instructors who told me there was nothing to be afraid of, rather than acknowledging and addressing my fear, only made it worse. Riding my horse in the woods, and just playing around, I did not have the fear. The older my kids got (they are now juniors in college), the less fear.

          If I recall correctly, you have skipped around advanced in the past. That might make many poopoo your fears, don't let them. There is someone in VT (Andrea Waldo) who works with riders with fear. You might want to consult with her.
          Last edited by IFG; Jan. 21, 2013, 08:45 AM.


          • #6
            I am your age, with a young child, and also a re-rider. While this may not be the case with you, some of the best advice I ever received was: "buy a horse for the rider you are now, not the rider you once were."

            A few years ago, I bought a hot young horse that truthfully only my trainer could ride. I wanted to get back into hunters but found that all of my mojo was just gone. I sold him and took a break from riding to figure out what I wanted. I decided that I liked trail riding, hunter paces, and a dead quiet horse that I could trust. So that's what I bought. And riding is fun again.
            One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. - Virginia Woolf


            • #7
              I'm inclined to agree with mrs.smith above. Buy a horse you enjoy riding. There's no shame in enjoying a calmer, saner ride as you get older. I enjoy riding a hot horse still at 27. However, I do realize this likely wont always be the case especially once I have kids. My horses are perfect for the current me. Neither does anything to make me afraid or not want to ride. Find something you WANT to ride. Not something that makes you shake in fear. Even if that's a more 'boring' horse than a past you liked.

              No one says you HAVE to compete in anything. If all you want to do is trail ride or do local fun shows, do it. Horses are way too expensive to not enjoy them!

              If you decide all you want to do with your horses is feed them and enjoy their company, who cares? Do what is right for YOU.


              • #8
                I suspect the feelings have nothing to do with riding....you are more risk adverse now as a parent or as just getting older. That is pretty normal.....although not everyone gets it...but you do sound like you are having a fairly extreme reaction with the shaking. If you can't pin point what is causing you to be so anxious, it seems to me that you should talk with a professional to get to the bottom of the feelings. I would if something else bothering you (physical or mental)...and it is just coming out with the horses although really doesn't have to do with riding.
                ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **


                • #9
                  Originally posted by bornfreenowexpensive View Post
                  I suspect the feelings have nothing to do with riding....you are more risk adverse now as a parent or as just getting older. That is pretty normal.....although not everyone gets it...but you do sound like you are having a fairly extreme reaction with the shaking. If you can't pin point what is causing you to be so anxious, it seems to me that you should talk with a professional to get to the bottom of the feelings. I would if something else bothering you (physical or mental)...and it is just coming out with the horses although really doesn't have to do with riding.


                  • #10
                    Agree with BFNE and JBP. Andrea Waldo is a licensed psychotherapist, who also teaches riding, and lives in your state. Here is a link to her page:



                    • #11
                      I have had this problem as well. When I was younger I always rode the crazies and loved it, then I started to go thru peri menopause. All of a sudden the care free, devil may care self turned into the, I'm not sure I want to canter/ gallop down that trail, much less jump that oxer. My mind was always thinking what if this happens or what if that happens, which as you know, is not a great state of mind to get on a flight animal. I suddenly realized I just DON'T bounce anymore!!

                      I finally gave myself permission to be afraid. I would walk down the trail if I felt unsafe or I would trot over the log on the trail, instead of taking the coop. Once I took all the pressure off of myself, I suddenly could breath. In doing that,I suddenly started to become much, much , much braver. Started taking dressage lessons on my stupid spooky ISH, which progressed into taking jumping. Sometimes my jump instructor would push me to far, over huge jumps I felt were to big. However, once I made it over and was safe on the other side, I realized that really was kinda fun.

                      In fact, I stupidly, went out and bought another horse. I already had five but just felt I really needed yet another. So what do I buy? A five year old leopard Appy, that was 17:1 when I bought him, who topped out at a hair under 18 hands.( slaps hand to forehead). Okay, not my smartest moment since I really like horses between the 15 - 16 hands. Again, it took me a long time to feel comfy on him because of his height. But he is a very good boy although very forward. Unfortunately, I am going to have to go thru it all over again, since I will be having a total knee replacement.
                      Good luck. I hope you can start to feel safe again.


                      • #12
                        I was NEVER fearless, but I do totally get you when you ponder the value of just having horses around and looking after them. I keep mostly layups, the pony, and broodmares at home and wouldn't want to NOT have horses on my farm, but my one horse doesn't like the slow pace at my barn and prefers the busy life boarding, so he stays at my trainer's. I am happier having him in training anyway because he's young and needs a lot of work.

                        I think it's great to have a way of enjoying horses without riding and competing, and this was a great revelation to me.

                        If you're shaking and fearful, probably there are some other things going on that you need to address. Maybe it is the mom thing--like I said I was always kind of a weenie so having kids didn't change me that much. I did ride bareback crazily and all that when I was younger, but that just has no appeal to me any more--I don't consider that a rational yardstick by which to measure myself any more. Who needs it?

                        How about if you took a month and did lessons on a steady older horse, see if that would feel more comfortable? Not every horse is the right horse at every stage of our lives--your needs might need more clear definition now, and an old packer or schoolmaster might suit you better for the moment.
                        Click here before you buy.


                        • #13
                          Hey, I'm scared every time I ride have always been, since I was what, 11? Erm, that was um, decades ago.
                          I still love my horses. Occasionally I can be not be scared, usually when I don't know the horse and am told he is bomb proof (and usually they never are).

                          Probably riding alone is the best for me. I've always, always had people around me who were better/less fearful riders and who didn't care how nervous I was.
                          I've had fun when I decided everything, including I will get off and walk now.
                          I did do well with a trainer who understood me and knew how to work with me.
                          Both my horses were a challenge to me, hot(arab) or dumb in the preservation dept(tb). Old horses are best, they don't want to expend too much energy screwing around. The Arab can still do the OMG spin, snort, thing and he is 25.
                          So my vote is riding completely at your own pace and ignore the smirks.


                          • #14
                            I totally understand.. I am 40 with 1 kid and it changed my mindset.. It is funny I find myself going through all the "what if's" all the time until I actually start riding and working my horse then of course it all goes away because I am focusing on the ride. I actually decided that I wasn't going to ride anymore and bought two welsh ponies to drive...I thought that would be OK for me but it wasn't enough Now I am riding a well schooled sweet boy that is building my confidence but I will have to get my own horse soon. I am nervous about getting another horse because I will have to go through creating that great partnership.. I don't have a budget for a well schooled horse so with my trainers help we are going to get the best I can afford. I am keeping my fingers crossed that my new horse will be kind, understanding and fun!

                            You should talk to someone and find out what is right for you. What is right for one person is not right for another and you want to enjoy your horses not be afraind. If you want to just hang out with your ponies then do it Life is to short to do something that you don't enjoy....
                            My horse of a lifetime!!


                            • #15
                              I will just say there is no ONE way to have horses in your life. Keep them happy and healthy -- and enjoy them however you want! A horse does not feel deprived because he is not ridden; to be loved on, groomed, mentally stimulated, none of these HAVE to involve riding. Do what YOU want to do, not what you think other people think you should do.
                              Life doesn't have perfect footing.

                              Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
                              We Are Flying Solo


                              • #16
                                I dunno...maybe we grow up and realize we don't have the same goals anymore. Is it really necessary to compete or have goals at the same level you did 20 or even 10 years ago?? I know a couple of retired professional ball players and they say they grew out of the overwhelming drive to be better, faster and get out there whether they felt like it or not. They still love the game enough to do fantasy camps and such but have no desire at all to do what they once did.

                                Maybe we riders who rode seriously at some point are just experiencing the same thing? Just want to back it down and enjoy instead of always trying to prove to ourselves and others we were better, faster, tougher?

                                For OP here, I think the shaking is beyond that and a psychologist can help you get to the bottom of whatever else you are bringing to the barn. But there is no need to keep going at a top level if it's just not in your heart anymore-you are not letting yourslef down, you just don't have so much to prove now that you have changed.

                                Buy the horse for where you are now...or you can be an owner and watch your horse go under a fine young and hungry trainer. I thought I would hate that but...it was almost more fun and a heck of alot easier on body and nerves.
                                When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                                The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                                • #17
                                  (formerly SmallHerd)

                                  TG, I totally feel you. I am pushing 50 this year, and was pretty fearless until a few years ago. Over the last 10 years I have ridden a pushy, HOT OTTB, and young OTTB, a mean-spirited paint, and then another opinionated TB. Last fall, a couple of my friends hounded me about my current mount, telling me he was just not appropriate for me. I resisted with everything I had, but my fear starting growing. With that, his opinions became more prevalent, and I started to fear and DISLIKE riding. I finally gave in and at least agreed to try another horse. As it turned out, I traded the opinionated TB for a TB cross who was a bit older, a former schoolie, and OH SO SANE. I love riding him. Now, I still have fear, but it isn't all-consuming like it was before. And he is letting me sort it out in a safe way, and allowing me to work through all of the bad habits I developed riding the squirrely ones. I am so much happier now.

                                  That said, I also love having a pasture full of horses, and really enjoy caring for and just spending time with them. If I get to the point that the fear comes back again, I will probably just putz around in the saddle but really get my horsie fix from caring for the ponies. There is NOTHING wrong with that. It is an individual decision that only you can make.

                                  Best of luck to you!!


                                  • #18
                                    Sounds like you have a lot on your plate: a family with two young kids, a barn full of horses to take care, maybe a job, you didn't say, a dark and cold winter where you live. As well as a sports psych/counselor, maybe you ought to talk to your medical doctor and a regular counselor: you might be having general stress/depression that medication and/or counseling would help or maybe some low iron/B12.
                                    If your horse is in training, you could always give yourself a couple of months off riding him until spring when you might fell better.


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by wildlifer View Post
                                      I will just say there is no ONE way to have horses in your life. Keep them happy and healthy -- and enjoy them however you want! A horse does not feel deprived because he is not ridden; to be loved on, groomed, mentally stimulated, none of these HAVE to involve riding. Do what YOU want to do, not what you think other people think you should do.
                                      This. My mom, while always a horse mom, started caring for Neigh and his companion shortly before she turned 60. Now that Fury has passed and Neigh is here with me, she misses her horse time, even though she never rode (she got on Neigh maybe ONCE when I was a kid). She loved taking care of them (except in the winter...but I don't like caring for horses in the winter, either!). That was HER way of loving horses.

                                      But, OP, if you want to ride, you may need to seek some help. Admittedly, I am now a HUGE fan of sports psychology (been seeing one for my issues for a couple of months, and I am feeling the difference). It may not have anything to do with riding in and of itself (it took less than one session to realize some non-riding issues were not helping my riding issues), but talking with someone may help you find the problem then develop a solution so you can enjoy riding without fear and shaking.


                                      • #20
                                        I'm pushing 50. For me it wasn't really about having kids that depend on me--I bought a TB youngster when my youngest turned 1 year old and in the next dozen years with little kids at home I took him all the way up the levels having previously only ridden at Training a handful of times! But in the last 10 years where before it didn't occur to me to worry I've gone through some fear issues.

                                        Taking periods of time off made it very difficult each time I got going again. I've realized in the last year that those fear issues are *directly* related to my own fitness more than any other single factor. Working with a personal trainer and really developing core strength has been great as well as finally getting in enough of a program that I don't have long gaps of down time when I'm not riding.

                                        I'm also trading out the type of horse I'm riding. My sportbred/sports car TB that's very athletic and talented, but on the naughty side is in training to be sold. He would have been my dream horse 20 years ago!! I would have laughed at his antics then and wouldn't have been bothered at all, but now, not so much. My sense of humor has changed! Instead I've got two ho hum solid citizens in training. Even though they are both young and green they are laid back and mannerly. One is even *gasp* a warmblood...

                                        It's ok to change your focus. If you WANT to ride then you can probably work through it, but it may mean making some other commitments to help you get where you need to be both mentally AND physically.